... making a living versus pursuing a career
Growing up I didn't want to be a nurse, a teacher, or a secretary which were the common goals for girls in my day. I wanted to be a psychiatrist. I knew it was an impossible dream long before I graduated from high school, but, I couldn't think of anything to replace it.
Several of my classmates applied to Forsyth Dental School so, I did too. I was turned down because they had too many applicants. I was just seventeen so, they advised me to take bookkeeping and typing as a P.G. in high school and apply again the next year. I took the P.G. and added art as one of the subjects I needed to carry enough points to take a P.G. I didn't like bookkeeping but I did think of becoming an artist, but, I didn't want to be a starving artist.
I had a college diploma but, since we didn't have a lot of money, my family was reluctant to send me to college without an attainable goal in mind. A recruiter from Malden Business School came to see my mother and convinced her that I should learn some marketable skills while I was thinking about what I wanted to be. I signed up for a course in machines and shorthand.
About three months before I was to graduate, I was sent out on practice interviews. It was an eye opener. The two interviews I went on were at companies where I would be in a room with about five or six other people sending out bills. My heart sank. I went back to school very depressed.
The recruiter was there and she greeted me with great enthusiasm. "I didn't know you were ready to go to work," she said "I have a friend right here in the building who needs a secretary." She took my arm and said,"Let's go see if he is in." We went upstairs and he was in. She did all the talking. I met Mr. Reinherz, the other lawyer in the office, and, finally, her friend, Mr. McCarthy, turned to me and asked "Can you come to work on Monday?" I said "Yes"
When we got back to school, I reminded her I hadn't taken a secretarial course. She said, "You took shorthand, didn't you? and typing?" I said "Yes." She said "You'll do fine," and that was that. I finished school at night.
On Monday, I discovered the office had not had a secretary for three weeks. It was fortunate that I had learned to set up a letter and to type wills and other legal documents in my typing class. Also, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Reinherz had only recently teamed up to share an office and each had time to give me on the job training.
I was hired for $l2.00 a week but, in three weeks time, I got a $3.00 a week raise. That was a good sum in those days and getting a raise did wonders for my confidence. I thought I must be doing something right.
As I began to learn what I was doing, the job became more interesting. I learned more than how to run a law office. I learned about life. In a one girl law office, clients have a tendency to bare their soul. In fact, I probably got as much exposure to people and their problems as I would have had if I had become a psychiatrist. The only difference was that I didn't know how to help them. I just did a lot of listening.
It wasn't long before the office became a busy place. Just getting the regular secretarial work done (answering the telephone, making appointments, taking dictation and typing letters, filling out forms and petitions, typing wills, keeping track of return days, court dates and filing) was a challenge.
I was the receptionist, I talked to salesmen, ordered office supplies, legal forms and did just about anything that needed to be done. I also went to court a few times. My first time in court (as an identifying witness) I sat in the back of the court room with the general public reading the paper. The sergeant at arms called out his hear ye, hear ye all rise speech about three times before it penetrated. With a very red face, I jumped to my feet.
Near the end of the war, Mr. Reinherz got called into the service and asked me to take care of a trust. He said the accountant would do all the work. I would just have to write letters and send checks. I decided I'd better learn about trusts and that's when I discover Harvard University Extension courses. I took the Law of Trusts and Estates which was very helpful then and later.
Mr. Reinherz's friend Mr. Fulman watched over Mr. Reinherz's law practice while he was in the service and, when the war ended, they became partners and he and his secretary moved into our offices. It was wonderful. I could stay home if I was ill or take a day off without feeling guilty.
Eleven years passed before I moved on to a job at the Ford Plant in Somerville and after the plant closed I went to work at International Railway. I wasn't very busy there and I had time to think about college and a career. I still dreamed about college but was too busy to do anything about it. I learned that now you could take a test to help you decide on a career. I went to the Boston YWCA for the test.
The psychiatrist who evaluated my test told me that we slant the test ourselves. My answers put office work on the bottom, social work on the top and art in the middle. Obviously art was the unbiased one. I did enroll at Boston University, College of Liberal Arts, Evening Division, because the psychiatrist said I should do well in social work.
Before the start of my third year at Boston University, I was laid off from International Railway and, for the first time, I went to an agency to find a job. With my background, I was back in a law office, Hutchins & Wheeler, a medium-sized law firm in Boston, on the very first try.
Hutchins & Wheeler was a busy office and I had to do all my studying at home but I adjusted and, then, in my fourth year, I took a course in anthropology that turned out to be a graduate course. It was a disaster. I got through it but it was obvious that I had taken all the undergraduate courses that I needed. Now, I would have to take the required ones.
Not knowing how I would do in science, I decided to take a year off and take geology at the Museum of Science. What a fabulous place to take a course. It was fun and the field trips were terrific. The best part was a wall to wall TV screen in the study hall where we saw movies of the big volcanic eruption in Hawaii in the l960s.
When I thought about going back to school, I wasn't quite as enthusiastic as I had been. Working all day and going to school or studying every night lost its appeal when I had to take required courses. But, actually, the main reason was that I liked working at Hutchins & Wheeler. The scope and practice of law was different there.
My boss, William Swift, was an estate planner which I had already found interesting through my course on The Law of Trusts and Estates but he also worked in other fields. For instance, as counsel for Children's Hospital, he worked to protect the rights of minors who donated bone marrow and he worked on aspects of the law that related to transplants. He had several cases before the Massachusetts Supreme Court and he was the managing trustee of a very large charitable foundation.
Also, I became a charter member of the Boston Legal Secretaries Association which automatically made me a member of the Massachusetts and the National Associations of Legal Secretaries. I held several offices in both the Boston and the Massachusetts Associations and I was Registration Chairman when NALS held its convention in Boston.
In l970 I was nominated Legal Secretary of the Year. I won in Boston. Then, at the Massachusetts Convention, the judge who had to make the selection of the Massachusetts Legal Secretary of the Year said he had a difficult time but that one candidate stood apart from the rest because she had gone to a liberal arts college. That was me! My only regret was that I couldn't tell the recruiter who got me into all this how far I had taken those "marketable skills". Malden Business School was long gone and I can't even remember the recruiter's name.
After all those years of dreaming of a career and chasing after that dream, I found a great deal of satisfaction and even a sense of accomplishment where I least expected it, in "office work." I retired from Hutchins & Wheeler after twenty-eight years.
NOTE: Crafts were always a part of my life. I took up many crafts including making my own clothes and, after I retired, I went to Bunker Hill Community College and took up oil painting. My professor commented that if I had gone to art school after high school, I probably would have become a portrait painter (a starving one?)